Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Refusing Vaccination Makes You An Enemy of the State....Apparently

most of you probably know you should get the H1N1 vaccination. And as most of your probably know you shouldn't get the H1N1 vaccination. Kind of confusing isn't it? At least I think so. While I think doctors and healthcare professionals can provide us with useful information on what a person should do, I say this as a generalization. I point this out because I have come across an "Opinion" in the Globe and Mail written by Juliet Guichon and Ian Mitchell. Guichon has a L.L.D., and works in the Office of Medical Bioethics at the University of Calgary (UofC). Mitchell on the other hand is a professor of pediatrics and bioethics at UofC.These two professionals present an article that is pure opinion.

In their article I find three things quite disturbing:

1) When I first read the article I did not like the idea of fear-mongering people into getting the H1N1 vaccination.They state, and I quote:

Mass H1N1 vaccination refusal similarly might destroy (at least temporarily) our health-care system, with the threatened 100,000 people in hospital.

Might destroy our healthcare system! Really? Well, although I agree that H1N1 is very serious and it is important to be informed, people should be free to make their own decisions. Like many people have argued, the seasonal flu kills many people each year, but the popular media has chosen to focus on the H1N1 related deaths to the point that this all that gets reported. We don't get to hear about the hundreds of people that die from other strains of the flu because media has become saturated with H1N1.

2) The second point I find distressing is their comparison to the cod stocks crisis that closed the fishery on the Atlantic coast in the early 1990s. While the article insinuates that Atlantic fishermen were unable to recognize that their overfishing was destroying codstocks, this is simply not the case. Fishermen in Newfoundland for instance, were cognizant of the environmental effects of the fishery as early as the 1900s. Fishing off the coasts had been going on for hundreds of years, so it is not as 'spur of the moment' as Guichon and Mitchell make it seem. What were fishermen to do? Were they to lay down their livelihoods overnight and give up fishing? It is not an easy thing to answer. It may have helped the codstocks, but then again it might not have. Even today, with the fishery being regulated the codstocks aren't back up to normal. So on this comparison, I give them a big thumbs down. People face just as hard a decision over whether to get the vaccine or not as the fishermen did in the 1990s.

3) My last point is to argue against one of their last statements:Moreover, lay people can be confused by publicly available scientific information because they don't understand the scientific method or conversations scientists have among themselvesOh, I'm sorry I guess just because I'm not a doctor I will be easily confused by jargon and acronyms. I have found that the general public, when given the right circumstances to understand something are not as "lay" or dumb as some people like to think they are. If you break the largest, most complicated problem down, it becomes composed of commonsense problems. Give people enough time and energy and they can produce a commonsense answer to a problem (this is in general I might add, there are always extreme cases). We, as non-medically educated people may not be scientists, but I am pretty sure they are using a language of some sort which people have experience with. They may not initially be able to comprehend complex concepts, but they can discern what is important and what is not. ALSO, if Guichon and Mitchell believe the "lay people" to be so misinformed it might have been very helpful for them to actually address some of those issues more explicitly, rather than labeling people that do not get vaccinated as destroyers of healthcare.

People are able to make their own informed opinions, and they should not be guilted into something by either the mass media, government or professionals that present a one-sided opinion. H1N1 may be quite serious, but it still does not change ones individual rights to choose the best course of action for themselves.


The Commentator said...


Absolutely. Great points about science versus our ability to understand it.

I've learned to ignore anyone with a "bioethics" background. Those folks creep me out. Fear mongering is everywhere be it with global warming, national security and H1N1.

Personally, I think the vaccine is safe. I think people are fully capable of rationing the massive amounts of information to make a decision that best suits their needs.

DC said...

Exactly! I am not arguing that people should/shouldn't get the vaccine. People can make their own decisions with the facts they are presented with.

I also found this article today, which is cautioning people that they should get the vaccine because of 'predictions.'


The Commentator said...

Each of those dates have their own set context. I would like to know more to connect it to today.

I still can't believe they're not allowing GP's to get the vaccines to give to their patients. Who knows their patients better?